Opinion column by Jim Shields, MENDOCINO BEACON

September 1, 2022

I’ve always thought California’s preeminent citizens’ advocacy organization is Consumer Watchdog (“CW”).

This week, the group urged Governor Newsom to reform a hopelessly shattered bottle deposit system via a budget trailer bill as the group unveiled its top 10 signs of the system’s collapse.

They’ve got a lot of work to do though because there’s two weeks left in the legislative year.

“We need Governor Newsom to clean up the deposit system’s glaring problems by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a targeted way,” said CW’s Liza Tucker. “California needs to join the most progressive bottle deposit states by installing automated technology at redemption centers and at major supermarket chains. Those chains must be required to refund bottle deposits so that returning empties and getting deposit refunds is as easy as buying beverages in the first place.”

Consumer Watchdog says, “Over the last decade, the state’s inadequate subsidies have starved a network of redemption centers into closing while supermarkets aren’t universally required to refund bottle deposits. Many that are required refuse. A survey of over 500 California retailers obligated to refund California Redemption Value (CRV) of a nickel or dime found that 100 percent of Walmarts, 75 percent of Ralphs and 60 percent of Costcos illegally turn consumers away.”

Here’s CW’s Top 10 list of the state’s failed bottle deposit system:

1. Only 58 percent of California CRV containers were redeemed last year, making California 3rd to last among ten bottle deposit states.

2. Californians paying roughly $1.5 billion in bottle deposits each year get back just little more than half.

3. Fewer than 550 convenient redemption sites in supermarket parking lots exist to serve 40 million Californians.

4. Up to two thirds of legally obligated retailers refuse to redeem deposits.

5. Many residents of rural Northern California must drive up to 50 miles or more to get CRV refunds.

6.. Thirty-one out of 58 California counties have five or fewer redemption centers.

7. Sixty percent of Californians would redeem containers if the system was convenient.

8. Less than one in four Californians redeem bottle deposits while more than three quarters lose CRV to curbside bins.

9. One-third of containers thrown into curbside bins are landfilled while haulers bill the state for CRV.

10. In 2020, 13.4 billion beverage containers in wound up in landfills, incinerators or as litter .

Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, [email protected], the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program  “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org